GABNet NYNJ 2007
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In 2006, Christmas, a runaway Filipino maid in Kuwait was abducted and gang-raped by 17 men in desert camps. The woman who had escaped her employer’s house was found by four men who took her to a desert camp where they raped her. They then offered the maid to six of their friends who again raped her at a second camp before delivering her to seven others who finished the gang-raped her at a third camp. She was violated over and over again.
Meanwhile, earlier that summer the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration exposed a human-trafficking ring in Dubai that falsely recruited young Filipinas –mostly in their 20’s -- ostensibly as waitresses, salesgirls, mall or hotel employees but instead forced them into prostitution for bar owners and pimps when they arrived. Most of the victims who have sought the help of the Philippine consulate in Dubai were some of the lucky ones, able to escape from their pimps and recruiters. The victims experienced severe trauma, exploitation and abuse while in the custody of these syndicates.
5 coffins a day land at the Manila International Airport; three contain the bodies of Filipina women who died or were killed elsewhere in the world.
Battery, rape and murder are the top occupational hazards for Filipina who work overseas.
What circumstances have exposed these women to such danger and atrocities?
In today’s globalized world, where capital’s relentless and ruthless pursuit for markets and profits have been glossed over by multinational corporations, dubious international bodies and national governments, human trafficking – the Recruiting, Harboring & Transportation of a person by use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjecting them to sexual and/or labor exploitation -- has become our very own modern-day slavery.
Human Trafficking, with an annual profit of $5-7 billion is the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world today, after arms and drug dealing. As many as 2 million women are trafficked across borders annually. Women are typically recruited with promises of good jobs in other countries or provinces and lacking better options at home “agree” to migrate. An estimated 20 million women and children are in the global sex trade.
Although sex trafficking – which involves sexual exploitation in prostitution or pornography, mail-order bride trafficking, and commercial sexual abuse of children -- is one of the most lucrative sectors of the trade in people, trafficking for labor exploitation is also increasing. In fact, the sex trade is the second most likely employment for Filipinas going abroad, the first is domestic work.
Reports have come in telling of Filipinas jumping from buildings to escape the abusive practices of their employers, some of whom have treated them little more than animals – feeding them scraps, locking them in a room and refusing payment for their work.
Filipina domestic workers all over the Middle East, where the majority of them work, have taken to wearing multiple underwear garments to sleep to prevent employers from raping them.
But the Philippine government – much like a pimp – continues to search the globe for countries to take its "surplus labor.” Today, Number of Filipinos Overseas: 8.1 million in 194 countries. Indeed, the government has deployed a yearly average of 900,000-one million OFW’s from 2001 to 2005. 75% of those who leave are Filipina women. In fact, the Philippines is the world’s top exporter of women, more than 64% of Filipino Overseas Foreign Workers are women. The share of OFW remittances to the gross national product has grown from nearly 8 percent in 2001 to 10 percent in 2005.
Meanwhile, The Sex industry – including child pornography and prostitution -- is now the fourth largest industry in the Philippines. The Philippine government has institutionalized sex trafficking under a host of “work” euphemisms such as “guest relations officer (GRO), cultural dancer, and cultural entertainers. The Majority of the 300,000 OFWs in Japan last year were women who worked as entertainers for the “rest and recreation” of the American troops based there. Women who are infected by STDs and AIDS are immediately deported to the Philippines. More than 47,000 Filipinas are in South Korea, many are on Entertainment visas. An estimated 25,000 Filipinas have been brought to the US to work in brothels, bars nightclubs, illegal sex farms and in vicinity of military bases. Some 20,000 do the sex farm tours in Europe. The number of Filipinas in the nightclubs and brothels of the Middle East is not available but it is sizable. Moreover, tourism – a quick way for many debtor countries to earn cash as recommended by the IMF – has only facilitated sex tourism – in which agencies offer “package” vacations which include commercial sex and a plethora of women to choose from. SE Asia earns $8 billion/year from tourism – 80% of tourists are males.
Moreover, In the United States, around 5,000 Filipino women enter as mail-order brides per year. In Australia, some 20,000 Filipino women have gone as Mail order brides. Out of the 4,000 Filipinos in Iraq today, Filipinas have been found working in the US military bases – in the massage parlors.
These numbers and facts are staggering. And they are only the tip of the iceberg.
How have Filipinas been so commodified and dehumanized, reduced to sexual slaves or domestic drudgery?
Some mainstream human rights organizations have actually touted that poverty and inequality as a cause of human trafficking is a myth. They instead claim that Trafficking is a criminal industry driven by the traffickers and their customers. In other words, supply is only offered by the pimps and demand is only coming from the johns of the world. This view, to put it simply, is blind to the bigger picture.
As women who struggle against the machinations of imperialism and neocolonialism, we know that globalization has established for trafficking a daisy-chain of economic operations:
1) At one end, it ensures an endless supply of poor women with no alternative except to sell their bodies via the sex trade or domestic labor. IMF/WB policies have entrenched and intensified artificial poverty in debtor countries by eliminating national self-sufficiency through so called liberal economic reforms via privatization of land and demolition of urban and rural communities. Peddling tourism as a quick source of cash has also opened the floodgate to prostitution. In addition, the open door policy for trade and investments to create export processing zones, the flexibilization of labor and the encouragement to rely on migrant remittances to shore up a country’s GDP are all factors which have pushed women out of the production process to the shadows of the “informal” economy -- making the doors wide open for legal and illegal recruiters preying on young and poor Filipinas ready to accept whatever jobs that will ease the poverty of their families. According to a Philippine government study, the biggest number of the poor can be found among women and children, comprising 49.6% of the populace, which in a country of 88 million people means 56.4 million women and children.
2) In the middle, meanwhile, globalization has created a market for trafficking such as the establishment of tourism spots or discriminating immigration policies which favors some nationalities over others for a source of cheap labor. Moreover, militarism – the armed wing of globalization – has also created a huge market for trafficking. After 9/11, when the US returned to the Philippines to help the Philippine military hunt down Islamic terrorists, trafficking of women and girls to the conflict zone in the south rose to 200%. In one instance, a town mayor bussed in a group of young Filipinas to the US base and told the GI’s that the Philippines welcomed them “with open arms and open legs.” In the international scene, America’s imperialist war in Iraq has led to the increased trafficking of Iraqi women and girls to neighboring countries – a story not commented upon in the media.
3) And, finally, at the end of the spectrum, globalization has constructed an elaborate pimping system which pumps up demand for the sex trade, including the exotification of women of color through the media (especially the Internet), pornography and drugs (like Viagra). As for trafficking in labor, how many of us can live full lives without the help of a nanny or housekeeper? how many of us would be able to afford our cheap groceries or Nike sneakers without labor exploitation?
Simply put, to enslave women in the sex industry or to exploit her labor means to FIRST enslave her economically. Thus for women of such impoverished countries as the Philippines, choice or the exercise of choice is not even a factor when survival is the goal. This argument for choice is what some critics have lobbed against our analysis – they claim, don’t these women choose to be domestic workers? Don’t they choose to be Prostitutes?
And our answer is an emphatic NO, for as long as entities like the IMF/WB and their global manifestations are enabled to afflict nations and peoples with continuing poverty there is no choice. As long as transnational corporations are enabled to plunder without hindrance nations and people there is no choice. As long as national governments oppress and suppress their people’s demands for liberation, there is no choice.
So, unless poor and oppressed women of the world unite to struggle against imperialist globalization and neocolonization, our and our sisters’ fates will remain as that of being “displaced commodified and modern day slaves”. We must educate, organize and mobilize ourselves. In our attempt to build this international solidarity with women and our allies all over the world, we ask you to join GABRIELA Network’s Purple Rose Campaign, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this Valentine’s Day. The PRC is a massive global campaign which seeks to end trafficking in women and children and advances the analysis that this type of exploitation is a creature formed in the nexus of imperialism.
Without your attention to this matter, without your commitment to this cause, Filipina women, along with others from similarly exploited situations, will continually be violated…over and over again.
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Thursday, November 27, 2008
GABNet NYNJ 2007